In our sixth guest blog by a past finalist, Sophie Cameron (UV2016), whose novel Out of the Blue will be published next year, talks about the power of thinking yourself as a writer.
Just over two years ago, I went to a masterclass on writing young adult fiction with Juno Dawson. The class was brilliant and Juno gave us lots of great tips, but one in particular stood out to me: think of yourself as a writer. If you write, regardless of whether or not you’ve been published, that’s what you are – not an “aspiring writer” or a “wannabe writer”, a writer. (Juno no doubt put it more eloquently than I have, but you get the gist.)
It’s pretty simple advice, but it really changed my outlook on writing. Before, I’d been someone who enjoyed writing, someone who’d done writing courses and workshops, someone who hoped to one day be published… but not a writer. Once I started thinking of myself as such, I began to take my writing more seriously. I got into a routine and started viewing it as a responsibility, just like my day job.
A month or so after that masterclass, I sent the first chapters of my YA novel Out of the Blue to Undiscovered Voices. I’d started writing the manuscript just a few months beforehand so at that stage it was only a very rough first draft, with lots of gaps and plot holes to be filled in. In the time between submission and the longlist announcement, I stayed focused and worked on properly finishing the novel and improving it as much as a could – not because I thought I had much chance of being selected, but because that’s just what writers do.
Even having a complete, polished manuscript to my name felt like a huge achievement.
Even having a complete, polished manuscript to my name felt like a huge achievement. Until then I’d always reach twenty or thirty thousand words, hit a wall, then get distracted by a shiny new idea and start over. I spent years stuck in this cycle, but once I decided I was a writer, finishing felt like something I had to do; it gave me a focus and drive that I’d never had before.
To my amazement, I made the Undiscovered Voices shortlist in December 2015.
The next few months were incredible: I got lots of requests to read the full manuscript from agents and editors, several of whom I met while I was in London for the Undiscovered Voices launch party last February, and ended up with multiple offers of representation. I signed with my brilliant agent Hellie Ogden last March, she sold Out of the Blue to Macmillan Children’s Books in October, and it’s now due to be published in spring 2018 – something that still hasn’t quite sunk in!
I was so lucky to be included in UV, and I know not everyone has such a quick or straighforward route to publication. But thinking of yourself as a writer, as someone who is serious and professional about what they do, can only help – especially if, like me, you’ve had trouble sticking to projects in the past. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been writing or what stage in your career you’re at: if you write, you’re a writer. Don’t be afraid to think of yourself as such.
Submissions for UV2018 will open this Saturday (1st July 2017) and will close 15th August 2017. Why not sign up here for a reminder when submissions open?
Sophie Cameron is a YA writer from the Highlands of Scotland. Her first novel Out of the Blue was featured in Undiscovered Voices 2016 and will be published by Macmillan Children’s Books in 2018. She currently lives in Spain, where she works as an editor for an events magazine, and is writing her second novel.